Netherlands vs Croatia, summary: Modric penalty, extra-time, score, goals & highlights | UEFA Nations League semi-final
Netherlands vs Croatia, Nations League: as it happened
Well, where do I begin?
First of all, with a thank you for sticking through an incredibly intense affair in Rotterdam. Croatia's class shone through in the end but the scoreline is probably a little flattering to the side who, once again, showed their amazing capacity to keep going.
It sounds simple, but the fact that Croatia are so tough, like biting into a chocolate bar from the back of the fridge, they are almost an impossible opponent to beat.
They remind me also of watching nature TV shows, looking on as a heron tries their best to bite and poke its way into the juicy bits of a turtle at the side of a lake. With the little reptile huddled away in his shell, eventually the heron gives up and just flies away. Well, Croatia are the football equivalent.
Eventually they force you, after you have thrown punches for 120 minutes, with no more energy left, to fly away and allow them to win.
Luka Modric kept flying passes into space with eagle-eyed accuracy even when the referee was huffing and puffing to get home and in the bath; what a show of endurance from the veteran.
Croatia had the strength in depth off the bench that was the key in extra-time, with Koeman's subs failing to make an impact and Croatia's Plan B, C and D all working exceptionally well. In the end, they were worthy winners of the game as the Netherlands seemed to run out of steam and legs and mental fortitude to go any more time against this perfectly evolved creature in red and white.
Spain or Italy will have an extremely tough task breaking down their defences and dealing with their attack, whoever makes it to the final.
That's me for the day, thanks for joining and make sure to check out the site tomorrow for more football action!
I assume that the goal was given as offside, as the stadium scoreboard says 2-4, but I have no idea why the referee didn't make the call clear. Anyway... Croatia are through to the Nations League final!
The referee has blown for... the end of the game!
It was a lovely move with Petkovic slipping past Geertruida before slotting the ball past Bijlow. But it looked as though there was an offside call in the buildup as the ball was worked across goal...
1 added minute.
Luka! Luka! Luka! cry the crowd as Modric makes his way around the outskirts of the pitch.
The Oranje players look deflated.
We're into the final minute...
(to a huge ovation, what a performance)
Croatia have been the better team in extra time, with Modric running things like always...
It was a silly challenge from Malacia, who lost his nerve and tumbled Petkovic to the ground.
Modric stepped up and side-footed the ball into the top right corner, sending the goalkeeper the other way.
MODRIC FLOATS THE PENALTY INTO THE TOP CORNER
Modric to take...
MALACIA FOUL IN THE BOX
PENALTY TO CROATIA!!!
Pasalic found himself with the ball on the right side of the box and Bijlow charging at him, but the forward skipped past him and lofted a shot off the bar!
OFF THE BAR FROM PASALIC!!!!
A few fouls have angered the Oranje players who are feeling the nerves. The calls have been debatable but this far into the game, everything feels magnified by 100. The clock ticks on.
Bergwijn got in behind and hit a shot that was saved well by Livakovic; the ball fell to Lang who put the rebound wide from just yards out!
WHAT A MISS FROM LANG!!!
Bijlow saves Vlasic's shot and then allows the ball to bounce on the edge of the box instead of clearing it in an incredibly nervous moment for the goalkeeper.
Wijnaldum almost takes down a long ball, which would have set up Weghorst perfectly, but the shove from the striker means the referee blows for a foul.
De Roon and Malacia ON
Aké and Gakpo OFF
15 minutes remaining!
Fifteen more to go...
How are we doing?
Croatia clear... and that's all for now!
The Netherlands have a corner...
Aké scrambles back well to steal the ball from Petkovic who was on his own and away in front of goal. Another scare for the Netherlands.
1 added minute.
Modric with a simply stunning pass through the lines pushes the Netherlands back and Brozovic hits a ludicrously powerful cross from the right that is almost tipped into goal by Petkovic.
CROATIA COME CLOSE AGAIN!!
The ball was thundered in from the right and Frenkie De Jong stuck a leg out and connected with the ball that dribbled agonisingly past the goal. So close to an own goal!
CROATIA SO CLOSE TO ANOTHER GOAL!
Roles reversed as Croatia are back to their control-the-ball phase, with the Netherlands now adopting the counter-strike plan.
Modric flicked a pass inside to Petkovic who spun past his marker and whipped a ferocious shot from miles out into the near post with his right boot - no chance for Bojlow!!!
WHAT A STRIKE FROM PETKOVIC
CROATIA MAKE IT 3-2
Van Dijk, perhaps forgetting that Weghorst does not hold the world record for the 100m sprint, plays a ludicrously ambitious ball over the top for him to chase. It flies out for a goal kick. Tired legs, tired minds.
Both Spain and Italy will be delighted that the tanks are being emptied in extra-time tonight...
Vida heads wide!!
Croatia have a corner after a fast burst forward down the left.
The Oranje have settled into their possession shape and Croatia's plan is steal the ball and fire all cannons in the same direction on the counter attack.
The fatigue levels have grown and grown and we've already seen plenty of misplaced passes in the opening couple of minutes.
30 more minutes to go!
Extra-time, here we go!
The ball was lofted in and it fell to Lang who hit a high shot into the roof of the net from inside the box as the Croatian defence watched on!
THE NETHERLANDS EQUALISE WITH 20 SECONDS TO GO
The goalkeeper stays up despite the ball flying out for a throw. Amazing scenes.
Corner to the Netherlands...
Vlasic sees his shot saved by Bijlow after he breaks through the middle but the linesman correctly calls offside.
Croatia defend the Netherlands' corner well but Koeman's team win it back and Aké hits a shot at Livakovic! Saved!
The ball dropped in the box after a poor Croatian clearance but Gakpo lashed at the ball and dragged it wide of goal from just a few yards out!
That was a huge chance!!
GAKPO JUST WIDE!!!!
6 added minutes.
Tick, tock, tick, tock...
Livakovic is OK! A Nations League miracle.
Livakovic is down with what looks like a back injury: he clashed with Vida when going for a high ball.
Modric and co. are perfectly happy to go into every battle at full speed, full strength and fully prepared to go down to ground if needs be.
Croatia have used the last 3 minutes brilliantly, keeping the ball and going down at every opportunity.
Croatia made the Netherlands players ask themselves 'how much do you want it? are you ready to chase us for it?' as they pull off some wonderful movements in the middle third, with Kovacic and Modric passing the ball like they're in the park with a group of competition winners.
The Netherlands are preparing more changes as their team continue to push Croatia back into their own box.
Livakovic comes out to punch away a Gakpo cross aimed at Weghorst's head. As you do.
The Croatian goalkeeper then smothers the rebound cross and wastes/saves a few precious seconds.
The Netherlands, to their credit, are fully aware that attacking is the only way. And given the fact they've got a real-life man-mountain in the box, they might as well take advantage of him.
Vlasic and Stanisic ON
Ivanusec and Juvanovic OFF
We've got around 15 minutes plus whatever added time is to be added on, and the Netherlands have to find some attacking spirit from somewhere, as Croatia have taken control of the game.
Wijnaldum and Bergwijn ON
Wieffer and Malen OFF
Ivanusec stood for what seemed like years on the left side of the box before placing a simply delightful ball across the box, through a crowd of legs, landing at the feet of Pasalic, who swept a shot into the far corner. The perfect cross created a wonderful goal.
PASALIC WITH THE GOAL
The referee blew for a foul so it wouldn't have counted but Modric just played a pass akin to that one to Rodrygo against Chelsea last season.
Perisic got on the end of the ball across the box and fired a close-range volley over the bar.
WHAT A CHANCE FOR PERISIC!!!
Gakpo is back on. New shirt, all fresh.
Modric's cross is hoofed up and away for a corner by van Dijk. More strong, progressive possession for Croatia.
Gakpo is bleeding from the eye and needs treatment.
The reality of fatigue is getting to some of the players: we've seen a few misplaced passes and heavy legs are clomping around the pitch as the clocks ticks on.
Perisic checks back after working the ball inside and tries to play down the line to Kramaric, but the striker can't get on the end of the ball to cross into the box.
Dumfries bursts down the right and whacks a low cross into the box that Livakovic collects. I can't guess which way this is going to go!
Well, changing Simons for Weghorst is about as clear a switch of plan as you can get.
Brozovic is booked for a foul on Simons.
It's Croatia now with the initiative - and the ball - to attack. The Netherlands have fallen back into a 4-5-1 as they try to contain the rotations.
The Netherlands are trying to calm down the Croatians who are tearing around the pitch like a box of locusts. The intensity levels are through the roof in the stadium.
Livakovic catches Aké's header from a free-kick and all of a sudden, everyone is very on edge.
Wieffer fires over from the edge of the box!
We're back underway and the stadium has erupted in noise: there are at least 10,000 Croatian fans here.
The striker placed the ball past Bijlow and we've got a game on our hands!
Kramaric to take...
Modric was pulled to the ground by Gakpo. A silly foul; 100% a penalty.
PENALTY TO CROATIA!!!!
A delightful moment of skill from Pasalic on the right to skip past Aké and play a cross that is blocked by Van Dijk.
Malen hits a cross into the box but Croatia defend well. The two teams have had their half-time oranjes. Get it?
Modric threaded a wonderful ball into the danger space behind Dumfries and Kramaric swept left, right, left and then ducked inside into the box before unleashing a curling effort just wide of the far post!
KRAMARIC WITH A HUGE CHANCE!!!!
There we go: Croatia break with Perisic and Bijlow catches the ball; again, Croatia's attack comes from the left behind Dumfries.
The Netherlands have began the second half on the front foot, immediately pushing Croatia back into their own defensive half (and leaving lots of space behind the defence).
No changes for either side.
Second half underway!
Croatia get us going.
We're off again!
Here come the players for the second half!
It is intense...
You're right there, Netherlands-National-Team-Social-Media-Manager, the game has been a very feisty affair with both sides flying in and definitely not showing any signs of post-season fatigue!
That was a very intriguing half of football. The Netherlands, for long spells, chose to keep the ball and draw the Croatian midfield out of their caves where they felt safe and protected. The occasional spark of action from the home side came from the wide players, Simons and Malen, who are like two playful kittens fumbling around on a tightrope.
Croatia gradually grew into the game, but not before some cheap fouls against them caused ager levels to rise, and by that point the Netherlands had already scored, with Malen striking past Livakovic after some nice interplay between Simons and Gakpo.
From then on, the game went one way and then the other, with no real chances but flashes of potential danger showed us that a slip up in the tie will no doubt be costly.
No added time from Mr. Referee, that's all!
Malen plays football like a small child playing rugby who is scared of getting tackled: grab the ball and run in all directions. Except Malen is not a small, bespectacled boy on a school field, he's an exceptionally talented footballer. So when he does it, it works.
Malen, an incredibly direct player, tries a shot from inside the box that is blocked. A good take-down of a long-ball from Gakpo was played to Simons who squared across the pitch, opening up the chance to shoot.
Luka Modric has dropped back between the Croatia central defenders as he tries to pull the strings from deep. Croatia now are trying to build up through their opponents' mid-block, who seem happy to wait it out until half time.
Back underway. Dumfries is back on.
He's OK to carry on.
Dumfries is down injured and this game is getting very tasty.
BIG CHANCE FOR CROATIA!
The ball rolls enticingly across goal after fantastic work from Croatia to win the ball up high and turn. A big chance wasted.
De Jong booked for a foul as Croatia look to bounce right back.
The Netherlands create a nice overload of Croatia defenders on the left with some nice interplay between Simons and Gakpo.
The ball is quickly broken across the box to the right and Malen gets on the end of Koopmeriners' pass and fires into the far corner.
If the Netherlands were going to strike at any point in this half, it was going to come from their wide men: Xavi Simons did excellently well in the buildup and Malen hit the back of the goal from the right side.
Van Dijk man-handles Pasalic to the ground and the referee says no foul. Malen goes down moments later and a free-kick is given.
The crowd aren't happy bunny rabbits in the stands.
That was a close one. A long ball from the goalkeeper finds Koopmeiners who hits a ferocious effort from close range over the bar.
Kramaric had tried a lofted shot moments before that landed on the top of Bojlow's goal. End to end play.
BIG CHANCE FOR KOOPMEINERS!!
The possession is currently sitting at NED 53-47 CRO
The Netherlands need to calm the Croatia pressure, and they're doing so by keeping the ball with the back line, drawing the sting out of the game.
Croatia have taken the initiative over the last few minutes and a shot from Kovacic is followed up by Sutalo's cross, which is blocked out for a corner by Aké.
The game has just turned tasty with some small fouls that only angry people like to make. That disallowed goal has definitely turned the happiness in the crowd to a sense of frustration.
Croatia have realised that they can get find success behind Dumfries with the long, cross-field pass from one of the three uber-talented midfielders. One to keep an eye on.
The ball is in the net!!!
But Mr. Referee has ruled it out for a foul.
Pasalic went for the overhead kick but smacked Aké in the head.
Xavi Simons tries to play a deliciously slippery pass through the lines but Modric cuts out well, showing the small boy that he's going to need more skill than that to get past an old head like him.
Malen lofts in a high cross from the right that flies over all the awaiting heads and feet inside the Croatia box.
Another decent line-breaking move from the wide players of Koeman's side.
Brozovic penalised for a very, very soft foul on Wieffer. The Croatian midfielders are not happy with the last few decisions of the Romanian with the whistle.
Xavi Simons gets down the left and fires a laser-guided cross across the box that Livakovic gets down well to stop.
Kovacic gets a booking and looks absolutely gutted about it. He tried to do a 3-star skill move, failed and stuck his boot in the leg of the midfielder in blue.
Gakpo almost gets on the end of a long ball from Dumfries that causes a very audible 'oooohhh' from the oranje fans. The game may be opening up slightly.
Hang on, Croatia play a long ball to the left corner and everyone's favourite 34-year-old Croatian left-back does a few step-overs before winning a corner.
The atmosphere is fantastic, as we expected. The fans were in fine form outside the ground and they haven't lost their energy yet.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, the Netherlands continue to huff and puff as Croatia stand strong in the middle: Xavi Simons has had a few nice touches but nothing penetrative from either side as of yet.
How old is Perisic? If you get it right without looking I'll give you a virtual chocolate bar. I'd say at least 34.
The Netherlands continue to pass, pass, pass the ball, but they are not finding as many exits out of the back as they would like.
Of course, as I type this, Xavi Simons breaks and fires in a cross.
There is a shout for handball by Kovacic from the corner, but the VAR has a look and says nope.
The Netherlands continue to dominate the ball and break down the right with Malen, who fires a cross towards the far post where Simons was waiting. Blocked by Sutalo, corner to the home team.
Both teams are settling into defensive mid-blocks which is packing out the space around 15 metres ahead of the box of the attacking team, making progression difficult in the opening stages.
The Netherlands are enjoying some calm possession.
Boom. There's Modric. The 100-year-old robot burns past a gaggle of onlooking opponents in the middle, showing that it's not just his head that is quicker, but his legs too.
Koopmeiners tries a sly through aimed towards a gap between the two Croatian centre-backs, but the communication is solid with Livakovic who collects.
Modric to take the first corner of the game, won by Croatia who attacked hard down the right. A shaky start from the Netherlands?
István Kovács is the referee, by the way. He's a 38-year-old Romanian.
Van Dijk gets an early warning from the referee for going in hard on Kramaric.
De Jong makes a mistake in the middle with a loose pass and Croatia break quickly. Both teams are just feeling each other out in the opening stages.
And we are off!
The Netherlands kick us off in Rotterdam!
We've got the Netherlands in an all-blue kit; Croatia are as you would expect: red and white loveliness.
Here they are!
Time for the national anthems: both very well executed by all involved. A solid draw there to begin with, so who knows who carries the momentum from that into the game.
We're almost ready to go!
The two teams are ready to come onto the pitch at the De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam!
Head to head stats:
Before we get going, and there's not long to go, here's everything you need to know about the two teams in terms of stats.
Dig in, it's an absolute joy. Just don't forget that kick-off is very soon!
Here's a reminder of the starting XIs:
Dumfries - Geertruida - van Dijk - Aké
Wieffer - Koopmeiners - De Jong
Malen - Gakpo - Simons
Juranovic - Vida - Sutalo - Perisic
Modric - Brozovic - Kovacic
Pasalic - Kramaric - Ivanusec
How the fans are getting along
Well, fans of the Oranje always turn out in huge numbers, and today is no different. Maybe it's because they all wear orange, but they seem to have a massive presence all across the world wherever their team play!
It's a great question: how does a new tournament pop out of nowhere like an adventurous flower in the cracks of an old country road?
Well, Roddy's got you covered as he has explored the origins of the competition and the questions that influenced its inception in 2018.
Did you know?
The shirts that the Netherlands team wears during the two matches in the UEFA Nations League Finals will be auctioned for charity, with the proceeds going to the Spieren voor SpierenFoundation, an organisation that takes care of children with muscle diseases.
Here is the prize on offer...
Spain vs Italy is the other semi-final which is another huge tie in the UEFA Nations League.
I think it must be said that the tournament has given a much-needed edge to the multitude of international fixtures that we have the pleasure of dealing with over the course of a season.
It was seen as, perhaps a bit like the Conference League, as *another tournament* with no history or prestige. However, the early perceptions have been smashed down and now most football fans will admit that the Nations League is something that they enjoy. And no, Ceferin did not send this to me on my messaging app of choice.
Croatia starting XI:
Modric captains the side that includes Kovacic and Brozovic in the middle of midfield.
Xavi Simons and Cody Gakpo start for the Netherlands, who have put out a very interesting side to face Croatia.
And the answer is...
The Champions League winner on the squad is Nathan Aké, who was part of the historic treble with Manchester City.
And the two losing finalists are Denzel Dumfries and Croatia's Marcelo Brozovic, who both play for Inter.
Did you get all three players?
Modric making dreams come true
The Real Madrid number 10 took time out to meet some Croatia fans ahead of the game in the Netherlands.
The player has been linked with various moves away from the Spanish capital, and recently refused to talk about where his future lies in a press conference with Croatia, so we will have to wait and see how things go.
Can you name the Champions League 22-23 winner in one of the two teams and the two Champions League finalists?
Send you answer to @English_AS on Twitter and if you get the three names right I'll post your tweet on here!
The fans are in good spirits!
Everyone's in fine form ahead of kick-off with both sets of fans in a party mood and ready for the football!
*rubs hands together like a super villain*
Now this is what we love: a nice, sleek graphic that tells us exactly who are the dangermen for Croatia.
Kovacic, Modricand Perisic are the top dribblers of the side, taking up almost 50% of the total in the side. These three are definitely who the Netherlands need to keep their eye on when they pick up the ball at the De Kuip stadium.
The Netherlands' best finish:
The best finish for the Oranje was in 2019, the first ever edition of the Nations League. As you might have spotted, that is definitely not the Netherlands with the trophy, but Portugal.
A Gonçalo Guedes strike was enough for the Portuguese side to win 1-0 and lift the trophy for the first time in football history. As such, they will be looking to go one step further this time, and they definitely have the squad to do so.
Two midfield stars set to shine...
Frenkie De Jong and Luka Modric are two of LaLiga's stars on show tonight in midfield. The Barça player won the league with his club while Modric came second and took the Copa del Rey, so both will be looking to add another trophy to their season haul, and that battle begins soon!
Who to watch:
Xavi Simons is the man to keep an eye on today after he has shone all season with PSV. The ex-Barça academy player has finally had a breakthrough season, scoring 22 goals and 11 assists in 48 games for the Dutch side.
It seems as though we have been talking about the boy for a long time, and that's partly because we have: Simons came through the La Masia academy with a huge weight on his shoulders and a move to PSG brought him to the spotlight after links with Europe's top clubs.
He only played 7 times, however, (fancy that, PSG not having any room for developing youngsters) and quickly moved back to home soil in June of 2022.
Croatia's team news:
Josko Gvardiol has been ruled out with a groin injury, but the good news is that he is the only major absence due to fitness that the team led by Zlatko Dalic have to deal with.
It's sad, as every time I mention Gvardiol, I get flashbacks to when Messi did that bit of skill against him during the World Cup.
Netherlands' team news:
MemphisDepay and Matthijs De Ligt are the two names missing from Ronald Koeman's squad today as the pair have picked up injuries and are unable to feature.
Apart from, that the Oranje are good to get rolling!
It's Joe here to guide you through the ups and downs, the laughter and the tears of today's game.
Did you think the football was over?
Hello, hello and welcome to the NationsLeague! Yes, we have more delightful football from Europe today as the season is over yet the ball is still being kicked.
Today it's a fantastically tasty clash between the Netherlands and Croatia, who are both vying for a place in the UEFA Nations League final.